Program Director Interviews, Match, Medical Students

Program Director Interview Series: Charles Khoury, MD, MSHA | EM Residency Program Director at University of Alabama at Birmingham

In this month’s addition to the Program Director Interview Series we had the opportunity to chat with Charles Khoury, MD, MSHA to learn about the University of Alabama at Birmingham Emergency Medicine Residency Program. Dr. Khoury tells us more about residency at UAB in Birmingham, AL.

What sets your program apart from others?

We're really proud of a lot of things our program has to offer. But what really sets us apart is our critical care and trauma experience. Our health system cares for one of the sickest populations in the country. Training at UAB means that you'll be involved in the care of critically ill patients on a daily basis. Our ED serves a wide catchment area, and you'll have the opportunity to care for the sickest of the sick on every single one of your shifts. Our ICU rotations are second-to-none, and our off-service rotations will reinforce your ability to care for critically ill patients. We're also really proud of our trauma experience. As an EM resident, you'll be involved in the resuscitation of every trauma patient that comes through our doors, from leading the resuscitation to performing the procedures.

What are the benefits of attending a 3- vs. 4-year EM residency program?

Our 3-year experience is an immersive one. It's heavy on ED months and ICU months-- there's no doubt that you'll be ready to work in any ED in the country. We're able to do this without compromising elective time. Our residents have elective months in both their second and third years of residency. When we're in the ED, we work really, really hard. But when we're off, we're off. This allows us to provide exposure and training in anything and everything you'll need in only three years. An added benefit to a three-year program is that you can always elect to do a fellowship afterwards and still complete your training in four years.

What is something students may not know about your program?

Students know that we offer high-quality training, but they may not know just how sick our patient population is. You'll be taking care of strokes, MI's, patients in septic shock, and critically injured patients on a daily basis. We think that this intensive style of training creates the best emergency physicians out there.

How do you feel about the change to pass/fail Step 1 grading?

We've been utilizing a holistic approach to the application process for a few years now, so Step 1 being changed to pass/fail isn't going to affect our application process. At the end of the day, we're looking for clinically outstanding and community-minded residents, and Step 1 was never a great predictor of this in the first place. We've always placed more emphasis on clinical rotations and standardized letters of evaluation, so the best thing you can do to set yourself up for a great interview season is to perform well on your clinical rotations.

What kinds of opportunities for research exist? Do you look for residency candidates with research experience?

Research is helpful because it shows interest in your specialty and it develops you into a critical thinker, but it's not the most important thing in an application. If you've had the opportunity to do research, it's really helpful to your application as long as you're able to talk about it and to communicate how it's made you a better potential resident. But we also recognize that some students simply don't have the opportunity to perform longitudinal research projects. There are other great ways to display your interest and ongoing commitment to our specialty.

Do you have opportunities to explore global health at your institution?

We have some really terrific global health opportunities at UAB. We have a global health fellowship through our department, but even for those who may not want to complete a fellowship, there are still tons of opportunities to pursue interest in global health (including doing an overseas elective during residency). We have outstanding global health faculty; if you're interested in global health opportunities, we're more than happy to connect you with one of our faculty or our fellows.

What are some qualities that your program looks for in applicants?

We value strong work ethic, commitment and dedication to our patients and our specialty, positive mindsets, and a team-oriented mentality. So much of what we do in the ED is teamwork-based. It's really important that potential residents work well as part of a team.

Can you describe any attributes and qualities that make applicants stand out?

Some attributes and qualities that really make applicants stand out is when there is clear evidence on the application that the applicant is service-oriented (strong community service component), works great as a member of a team, and values camaraderie. Emergency medicine really is an outward-facing and team-oriented specialty. If you're able to lead a team with enthusiasm and professional humility, we want you working with us.

What is something special about the Birmingham, AL area that residents enjoy?

Birmingham has an awesome outdoor scene and an even better food scene. There are a ton of state parks in our area, so if you're outdoorsy, there's something for you. Our residents really love the food scene and the abundance of great breweries in Birmingham. Especially during the pandemic, we've been really fortunate to be able to get together as a group in outdoor environments like breweries. My favorite thing about Birmingham is the food scene. We have some of the best restaurants in the country. There's something for everyone, especially if you're looking to eat great on a budget!

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